Friday, October 16, 2009

"So What Do You Do?"

A few weeks ago I turned 50. My wife had the idea to throw a party for me and to invite people over to my house I had grown up with in school and church that were also turning 50 this year. So, on a Saturday night in September, we opened our house to about 40 people who came over to renew old acquaintances.

It was a lot of fun to see people that I hadn’t seen in 30 or more years. I think if a vote was taken, I would have been voted as the person most changed in 30 years. That aside, after some small talk, the inevitable question was always asked, “So what do you do?” To this question I always proudly answered, “I am the City Manager of the City of Fontana.” Often times, my response was equally met with a blank stare and the follow-up question was asked - “So what do you do?”

Based on these responses, I decided to use my blog today to give a glimpse of what a day is like in the life of a city manager. For this purpose, I pulled a day from my calendar last week and will walk through the day’s activities so you can at least get a feel for what a city manager does.

Before I go through the day, there is one thing I should say. Perhaps what I like most about my job is that there is no such thing as a typical day in my office. Some days are completely filled end-to-end with meetings, while other days may only have a couple meetings scheduled. It often seems to me that the days I don’t have meetings scheduled are the busiest days for some strange reason.

My day starts at 6:00 am when my alarm goes off. After hitting the snooze button once, I roll out of bed and reach for my PDA to see what messages I have received during the night. I see that I have 18 messages that I received while asleep, and I glance through them to see if any of them need to be dealt with immediately. This particular morning I see that one of the messages is from the Mayor asking for some information which I forward to the Public Works Director for follow-up. I then respond back to the Mayor that we will take care of it and headed off to the shower.

I am out of my house by 6:30 and on the way to the office. I typically get into City Hall about 7:00 am. I again check my PDA which has been vibrating away during my drive to the office. I note that the Public Works Director has already responded to the Mayor and to me on this morning’s question. I now have 33 messages that need to be taken care of.

I sit at my desk after walking down the hall to get a cup of coffee. I pick up the newspaper that I brought from home and scan through stories looking for items about Fontana or other local communities that may be of interest. Having fully reviewed the newspaper, I put it in my outbox for later pick-up by my secretary who circulates the paper to the City Clerk’s office.

It is now 7:15 am and I turn on my computer to check the calendar for the day. I see that I have a meeting with all of my department heads that morning, lunch with Mayor Pro-Tem Warren, an afternoon meeting with County Supervisor Gonzales, and a City Council Meeting that evening.

Between 7:15 and 8:10 I work through my messages that I see have now grown to 42, and read through the contracts left for my signature by my secretary. In working through my e-mails, I am asked a question about the possibility of settling a lawsuit that will result in a payment to the city of $270,000. I respond to the sender with some questions about the legal issues as well as the monetary value of the case and ultimately decide to bring the issue to the City Council at an upcoming meeting.

I also see that there was some gang activity at one of our parks to which the police responded. There were no arrests and no one was injured, but I forward the information along to the City Council for their information. I also have a number of questions about the evening’s meeting agenda items sent to me from Councilmember Scialdone. I respond directly to Mr. Scialdone on some of the items and refer his other questions to various staff members for response. I copy my assistant on all of my e-mails and she understands that it is her responsibility to make sure that all issues have been addressed in a timely manner. There are a number of newspaper articles that have been forwarded to me from various sources as well as some operational statistics that I print out and file for later use.

By 8:10 I have cleared my e-mail and gone to work on the contracts on my desk. The contracts that need to be reviewed and signed include a first-time homebuyer loan and a professional services contract for technical support on our new computer system. Also included in the file are expense claims from staff that are requesting reimbursement and leave slips from a couple department heads. The two reimbursement requests I kick back to the department for additional work.

At 8:30 I walk down to the Development Services Building for a meeting with all my department heads. I don’t have an agenda but decide to talk to them about ethics, following procedures, and admitting mistakes when made. I get on my soapbox for about 15 minutes, try to keep things fairly lighthearted, and then go around the room to let each department head talk about issues of importance. The meeting is done by 9:20 and I am back in my office by 9:30 with more coffee in hand.

It’s back to the computer as another 22 messages have been added to my inbox. Messages from City Council Members are printed in red and always get focused on first. By 10:00, the e-mail queue is once again cleared and my secretary Karen brings in a file for me to review.

The first item in the file is an anonymous note from an individual claiming to be a City worker leveling complaints about a co-worker. I don’t like dealing with anonymous letters but the accusations are significant enough that I ask my secretary to call in the Department Head and the Director of Human Resources to discuss. Also in the file is some correspondence to various developers and a policy item for City staff for my review and approval. I sign off the developer letters and make changes to the policy letter and send it back to the department.

It is now 10:40 and I have the department head and the Human Resources Director in my office to discuss the letter I received. We discuss the allegations and I am told the department has already heard about the allegations and had initiated an investigation last week. I spend some time talking about my specific concerns and ask the Human Resources Director to stay on top of the issue and keep me apprised.

It is now 11:00. I am back to the computer and see that I have 43 new messages. Several of these messages are from residents with some traffic and safety concerns. I respond directly to some and others I forward to other staff people for response. By 11:30 I leave the office to meet Mayor Pro-Tem Warren for lunch and then I am back to the office at 1:15.

1:15 to 1:30 I have another several contracts to review and sign off. At 1:30 I am back in my car heading to the County Administrative Offices to meet with County Supervisor Josie Gonzales. Our meeting starts at 2:00 and we discuss a variety of issues. I make a pitch for some possible funding from her for a project the City is constructing in her district and she says she will try to find some money.

By 3:00 I am back in the office. I talk to my assistant Amy to make sure that all of the follow-up items have been addressed before the City Council meeting that evening. She informs me of some potential angry property owners who may show up at the meeting about a proposed street widening project. I ask my secretary to have the City Engineer come by to discuss the project with me prior to the meeting. It is then back to my e-mail.

Another 34 messages are waiting for me and are dealt with. The City Engineer showed up at 4:00 and we talked about the issues surrounding the proposed street widening. That meeting was done by 4:15.

From 4:15 to 4:45 I returned calls from our State Lobbyist, a political consultant working for a local business, and a property owner wishing to create a development agreement with the City Council. By 4:45 I glance through the new messages on my computer to see if there are any that won’t wait and then head to the Executive Conference Room at 5:00 for our City Council workshop.

From 5:00 to 10:15 I work with the City Council at their meeting, and finally head for home about 10:30. I got home at 10:50, checked my PDA one last time to see if I received any follow-up messages from the City Council about the meeting that evening. I did receive a phone message from a City Council member who wanted to clarify a comment they made during the meeting and was in bed by 11:15 p.m.

“So what do you do?” I am the City Manager of Fontana.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Growing Facilities in a Growing Community

When I began working for the City of Fontana, we had approximately 78,000 residents, a city hall, a police department building, and various community centers spread throughout town. Currently, the City of Fontana is home to about 190,000 residents. For the past two decades, the City of Fontana has been one of the fastest growing communities in the nation and current forecasts project we will eventually grow to a population level of between 250,000 and 300,000 people.

During the majority of the past twenty-years of growth, the City has continued to use the same police department and city hall facilities. However, a few years ago, the City constructed a Development Services building just south of City Hall, and is now turning its attention to meeting the needs of an expanding police department.

Development Services Building 2008

Within the next year, you will see additional changes in and around City Hall. First, the Emerald Street Building, which has over time housed the County Library, Code Enforcement, Community Services and Records, will be torn down and converted into a controlled parking area for use by the Fontana Police Department. Once completed, the lower level parking area adjacent to the current Police Department will be converted into additional work spaces, a shooting range, and locker facilities. This expansion will provide sufficient room to grow for the Police Department for years to come.

In addition to creating expanded police parking and
facilities, the City Hall parking area will be reconfigured to add additional parking for community use. This reconfiguration will allow the City to create the parking it needs to serve the community without the construction of an expensive parking structure on the City Hall campus. Monies have been set aside for both the Police and City Hall parking projects by the City Council, and plans for the construction of those projects are currently working their way through “plan check”.

Next year the City will also begin a reconstruction and expansion project of the historic Fire Station 71, located north of Arrow and just east of Sierra. This project will wrap the historic station with a more modern station, capable of meeting the needs of our growing community, and turn the historic station into a fire museum. The new station will require the removal of some grass and trees from Miller Park, but when complete, the new station will allow Fontana to effectively meet the safety needs of our growing community in the most cost-effective manner.

When I became City Manager of Fontana, much of City Hall had been closed to the public. I have never liked the message this closure communicates to the community. Thus, over the past several years we have worked to reopen areas for public access and modernized/remodeled certain areas in a cost-effective manner and without building a new “government palace.”

While some of our City Hall office facilities are older than those in other communities, I believe Fontana has an excellent City Hall with a very friendly and professional environment. Fontana is blessed to have City Council members who emphasize community service over government monuments. It is this philosophy I have tried to follow, and will continue to follow, in the refurbishment of all our government facilities.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Community Services is On the Move

New Community Services Location

The Fontana Community Services has recently moved to their new location in Downtown Fontana located on Valencia Avenue, just west of Sierra. This building served as the former location of the county branch library and will now be used to better serve the residents of this community.

The Community Services Department provides parks and recreation services for the City of Fontana. This new location, centrally located, will bring together the staff of the entire department to better consolidate services. Garth Nelson, the Director of Community Services has expressed excitement about the move and looks forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for the community.

Fontana is very blessed to have some of the best and most well used parks and recreational facilities in the Inland Empire, if not the State of California. Recent additions to these facilities include Center Stage, Fontana Park, the Lewis Library and Technology Center, the Jessie Turner Health and Fitness Center, the Fontana Aquatics Center, and the Heritage Community Center. These newer facilities compliment a long list of other first-class community facilities that have served the need of this community for many years.

Jessie Turner Health and Fitness Center

Prior to this move, the Community Services Department made use of the Fontana Civic Auditorium for their office needs. A few years ago, the Civic Auditorium was closed for use because of seismic structural deficiencies and the fact that it did not comply with the access requirements required under the American with Disabilities Act. In looking at options for the Civic Auditorium, it was determined that it would be more cost effective to tear down the facility and reconstruct it for another use then it would be to try to retrofit the building. This started the City on a process to find both another facility for the Community Services as well as a facility that could be used to host performance events that were held in the Civic Auditorium.

The construction of the new Lewis Library and Technology Center was the answer that met both needs. At the library, the City built the Steelworkers Auditorium which is a state of the art facility that is capable of housing a number of community events and performances. In addition, moving the County Library to this new venue freed up the space they had been occupying which will meet the needs of the Community Services Department for years to come.

When you are in the area, please stop by the new facility located at 16860 Valencia Ave. to say hi and take the opportunity to register for one of our many excellent recreation classes offered around town. The Community Services Department would love to hear from you and to understand how they can better meet the programming needs of the community.

Community Services Department